The large and rapidly increasing population and low performance on various human development indicators, reflected in widespread poverty and lack of opportunities, pose a major challenge to the Government of Pakistan. Slow industrial growth has given way to the expansion of the informal sector, which harbors mainly cheap labor, including child labor. This is coupled with the inability of the formal education system to impart meaningful knowledge, skills and prepare children for gainful employment. The World Bank Report places 42 % of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa families below the poverty line.

Terrorism in Pakistan cost the nation 6% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009-10, and has killed nearly 9,000 Pakistanis in the past eight years. Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) due to the conflict and flood are another issue that Pakistan faced during the recent years. Terrorism has taken a heavy toll on Pakistan’s economy since 2001, according to Pakistan’s 2009-2010 economic survey report released by the Ministry of Finance. Pakistan may face a ’permanent’ degree of welfare loss due to the diversion of development spending towards the security budget, capital flight and brain drain, and due to the trade diversion it has suffered since 2001.

Pakistan is a diverse society with various ethnic and religious minorities. Religious minorities are believed to be much more than the estimated figures of 5 percent of Pakistan’s 160 million population, as Christians alone represent 5 to 6 percent of the population. Due to the above mentioned situation, minorities in the province are likely to be affected and unemployment ratio among them is also increased. They are facing hurdles in gaining decent employment opportunities.

In the backdrop of this scenario, AUQAF, Hajj, Religious and Minority Affairs Department Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa aims to minimize the woes of unemployment among religious minorities in a way that is in conformity with our socioeconomic ground realities. Article 36 of the constitution of Pakistan states that, ”The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services”.

Keeping in view the legitimate rights of the minorities, the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa initiated vocational skills training through Basic Education and Employable Skill Training (BEST) for religious minorities. For this purpose BEST signed an MOU with AUQAF, Hajj, Religious and Minority Affairs Department Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on January 10, 2014. The project aims to provide vocational skills training to the religious minorities. The project addressed needs of the targeted communities in District Nowshehra, District Mardan and District Battagram in focusing on youth, men and women. This strategy facilitated the trainees to keep in touch with their present livelihoods while receiving the vocational skills training. One way of doing this was to increase the efficiency of the religious minorities by facilitating their access to vocational training programs and developing linkages of the passed out trainees with the local market for job placement in various trades.

The project provided 310 youth, men and women with provision of vocational skill training in 1) Electrician, 2) Plumbing, 3) Tailoring, 4) Beautician, 5) Mobile Phone Repairing and 6) Computer Office Automation trades. The main focus of the Project was on quality Vocational skills training and creation of employment prospects as a strategy to provide livelihoods and economic opportunities for the religious minorities of District Nowshehra, District Mardan and District Battagram through vocational skills training and job placement. This approach assisted AUQAF, Hajj, Religious and Minority Affairs Government Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in designing a component of employment creation through skill development and its implementation at field level in the target districts.

According to the skill training model the project consists of three major components: A) Development of Skills Training Modules/Standards; B) Provision of Vocational Skills Training; C) Job Placement by developing and promoting linkages within the market.

The first two components of the project have been addressed by imparting quality vocational skill training at FIT (Forward Institute of Technology) in district Nowshera, MIT & MS in district Mardan and Pak IT and Vocational Center in Battagram. For the third component,BEST has conducted exploratory research/market survey for the identification of potential entrepreneurs in district Mardan and Nowshehra so that linkages of the graduate trainees with market for job placement could be developed.

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